Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nutrition Adjustment for Winter

by L. Lee Coyne, Ph.D.

The winter season and the typical events that occur throughout the winter (Christmas, New Year's, challenges of snow storms and cold weather, school assignments, exams and the excitement of our winter sports – to name a few) create significant challenges to the immune system.

When the immune system challenges become excessive it manifests in the form of some type of illness. Illnesses ranging from the common cold and flu to more serious conditions leading to cancer and heart disease.

If you develop and maintain a healthy immune system there is no reason for your body to participate in the so-called flu and cold season. In fact it might be more correct to refer to it as the "weakened immune system season". Please appreciate that the "immune system" is not like any other system (cardiovascular, respiratory or digestive systems) in the body. You can’t see it nor localize it. It is really just a term to express all of the mechanisms your body uses to protect and defend itself from the invasions of bacteria, viruses and toxins from the outside world.

Immune system strength is determined by the food you eat and your responses to the "stresses of life" (the neural-humoral connection). The food you eat provides the building blocks for healthy cells that are the most significant part of healthy immunity. During the "busy-season" and the various celebrations we enjoy, often the food choices and other lifestyle habits are not optimal.

To enjoy a healthful, illness-free, high-energy winter, think about forward planning your food choices so they become part of your lifestyle. Don’t let "lifestyle" dictate convenient, less healthful food choices. Appreciate the fact that your current state of health is supported by your lifestyle. To change your health and ill-health risks you must change your lifestyle. "Magic Bullet" products and quick fixes will not endure.

Lifestyle Choice # 1:

Eat enough protein to support optimal health and chosen lifestyle activities. You require approximately 0.75 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight depending on your physical activity level. (I know that is higher than conventional recommendation, but trust me - it works). As many know I advocate an eating plan of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% carefully chosen fat. A caveat is to understand that you only effectively absorb 30 to 35 grams (5 oz steak = 35 gms) of protein per meal or snack so it is necessary to distribute your consumption though-out the day. Eat some protein in every meal and every snack. There is recent evidence that (at least in the Western world it is recent) at least 30 grams of your daily protein should come from soy to provide adequate "isoflavanoids to help build and protect the immune system.

Lifestyle Choice # 2:

Select low" glycemic index" (GI) carbohydrates and avoid those easy to digest high starch and sugar products. GI is a measure of how fast blood sugar rises after eating - sugar = GI of 100 whereas peanuts = GI of 15. That means peanuts raise blood sugar at rate of only 15% of that created by white sugar, lower is better. Fast rising blood sugar means the pancreas produces or over produces insulin. Spikes in insulin production and chronically elevated insulin weakens the immune system and interferes with the production of the "Super hormones" that control many of our other hormones. If you eat low GI carbohydrates, combined with adequate protein and eat some of the protein first, you will control your insulin and be a friend to your immune system.

Lifestyle Choice # 3:

Consume adequate "essential fatty acids" (EFA’s) from nuts, seeds, fish, cold pressed oils and supplements. EFA’s are the building blocks for the "super hormones". Low fat, and high carbohydrates diets put you at risk.

Lifestyle Choice # 4:

Understand that nutritional supplementation is no longer an option if you wish to have optimal health and protect your immune system. On the average we eat less that ½ the Calories that our relatives ate in 1900 (1900 = 3800 Calories, today = 1800 Calories). And much of the food eaten today has a lower nutritional density. Remember that in 1900 "everything" was ORGANIC. In addition, modern life has dramatically increased the risks of Free Radical damage through the chemicals and toxins in our air, water and food supplies.

Numerous reputable research papers and books have demonstrated that the protective levels of the three major anti-oxidant nutrients (beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E) are much higher than we can expect to receive from any typical diet. Estimated protective levels of beta-carotene and other carotenoids has been estimated at 50,00O i.u. (30 mg) per day, the equivalent of 6 ½ average carrots or 5 ½ sweet potatoes EVERY DAY. The suggested protective levels for vitamin C are in excess of 1,000 mgs per day, the equivalent of 15 average oranges EVERY DAY, assuming the oranges contained vitamin C – some don’t. The suggested protective level for vitamin E is at least 400 i.u., equivalent to 19 cups of almonds or 2.1 cups of soybean oil. I think these examples demonstrate the difficulty one would have in receiving protective levels of essential anti-oxidants from any average diet. Many other examples of such difficulty are available.

The anti-oxidants mentioned above are merely the most publicized examples available. Other significant anti-oxidants include grape-seed extract, selenium, coenzyme Q10 to mention a few.

Anti-oxidants are known as "Free-Radical" scavengers. They combine with Free Radicals to prevent them from being oxidized. Oxidized Free Radicals are the toxic versions and the ant-oxidants basically neutralize them and allow more available oxygen for energy production. When we exercise we produce more Free Radicals and breath in more oxygen thus increasing the risk of Free-Radical damage. Surveys have shown that up to 40% of Marathon finishers become ill in the week following completion. It therefore behooves all heavy exercisers to protect themselves by increasing their ant-oxidant consumption.

Many people have used or heard of herbal remedies as protectors from flu and colds. The expression is that herbs like Echinacea "stimulate" or "support" the immune system. This has lead to the use of these products upon the appearance of symptoms. However it must be understood that herbs are "herbal remedies" or "herbal medicines" and not food. Echinacea may well stimulate the immune system but if you don’t feed the immune system with protective and constructive nutrients, the effectiveness of herbal remedy will be limited or short lived.

So as the "challenging" season approaches you might consider developing a strategy for a wise and consistent food choices and wise and responsible supplementation along with other smart lifestyle choices like stress reduction, healthy exercise habits and looking after your spirit & soul.

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prevalence of Alcoholism

Alcohol dependence affects a broad cross section of society around the world. Statistics show that alcohol dependence touches successful business executives, skilled mechanics, laborers, homemakers, and church members of all denominations.

Scientists have not identified a typical alcoholic personality, and they cannot predict with absolute certainty which drinkers will progress to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol use varies depending on an individual’s social, cultural, or religious background. Some individuals do not drink at all—about one-third of adults in the United States who are 18 and older, for example, abstain from alcohol. Others drink as part of social custom. Still others drink frequently and in substantial amounts. Those suffering from alcohol dependence drink to appease an uncontrolled craving for alcohol or to avoid experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal.
WHO estimates that about 76 million people worldwide suffer from alcohol-related disorders. The prevalence of the illness varies in different countries. In the United States about 15 percent of the population experiences problems related to their use of alcohol. Of these, alcohol dependence affects about 12.5 million men and women, or almost 4 percent of the population. Men are three times more likely than women to become alcoholics, while people aged 65 and older have the lowest rates of alcohol dependence.
In the United States, people who start to drink at an early age are at particular risk for developing alcohol dependence. Estimates indicate that 40 percent of people who begin to drink before age 15 will become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives. These individuals are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who delay drinking until age 21.
In Canada, an estimated 4 percent of the people aged 15 and older are alcohol dependent, and the number of male alcoholics is double that of females. The highest rate of this illness occurs in Canadians between the ages of 20 and 24. In Canadian surveys about one in five current and former drinkers admit that their drinking harmed them at some point in their lives, affecting their jobs or financial position.
Alcohol dependence has reached critical proportions in Russia, where it is estimated that almost a third of all deaths are related, directly or indirectly, to alcohol abuse. Periodic efforts by the government to control drinking by closing distilleries, breweries, and bars have backfired. Instead of solving the problem, such tactics only created a widespread black market for liquor—as well as a country of people who hide their drinking problems. 
In Asian nations such as Japan, alcohol abuse has become a social concern. In these countries, drinking almost is required when conducting business. Bars are an extension of offices, places where key decisions are made. A person who declines an invitation to a drink after work risks being passed over for promotion within the company. Alcohol is readily available in Japan—vending machines along the streets of Tokyo dispense cans of beer and sake.

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